Twilight Imperium

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Twilight Imperium
Twilight Imperium box.jpg
Wargame published by
Fantasy Flight Games
No. of Players 3-8
Session Time 6-8 Hours. Potentially many more
Authors Christian T. Petersen
First Publication 1997, 2000, 2005, 2012
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Not to be confused with Twitlight

Twilight Imperium is the name of the manly game from FFG, and for the setting of some of FFG's science fiction games. Twilight Imperium itself comes in three editions (each better than the last). There are also expansion packs, which are excellent.

The Setting[edit]

Enter the space operaist space opera that ever was; a galaxy dominated by warring races which players take the roles of. Conquer planets, build ships, make mercantile alliances, research world-killing weapons, and legislate your opponents to death with intergalactic politics. Twilight Imperium is basically a 4X space conquest game (Masters of Orion, etc) in boardgame format: It comes with a randomized Settlers of Catan-style tile system to create a board, and a variety of game mechanics that make each turn new and different.

The game's races are memorably unique, ranging from bipedal feline merchant princes to murderous post-human cyborgs to conniving space goblins who like to play James Bond. The objective of the game is to accumulate victory points by accomplishing objectives. The objectives range from developing technologies and controlling planets, to fucking your enemy's fleets and home systems. Objectives are revealed steadily throughout the game and each player starts with a a special secret objective. This King of the Hill-style objective sits at the center of each star map, and players are given the mandate to win by any means necessary (supplemented by secret objectives for each player, random events, and legislative votes). There is also a huge deck of 'intrigue cards' which essentially provide players with asymmetrical solutions to problems that they can't or won't solve with brute force by letting them lay down all kinds of random events, advantages for themselves, or disadvantages for their opponents. These also serve to add some character to the background of the story; planetary uprisings, religious fanatics and agents sabotaging the opposition.

Gameplay-wise, the game behaves similarly to Fantasy Flight's Game of Thrones boardgame: metagame and the behavior of the participants (singularly and collectively) has a huge impact on shaping each individual gameplay experience. This effects everything from the disposition of the star map (players take turns placing tiles, so each one has some influence on the game board) to how regularly military conflict occurs. The game also recommends randomizing race selection. All of this contributes to each group of gamers giving the game a very unique feel: an aggressive group might mean a lot of military conflict and relatively static alliances enforced by said conflict, while a more Machiavellian group might make the game a cold war of intrigue and vote-counting on passing galactic laws or trade agreements. On top of this, each race has its own unique specialty, further differentiating each player's strategy, and even further, each player chooses what is essentially a 'policy card' each turn that provides a benefit to a certain type of action. In short, there's a lot of emergent complexity, and it makes Twilight Imperium a game with a huge amount of depth and replayability.

The full rulebook is available from Fantasy Flight Games

A brief note: the Imperial strategy (which gives Victory Points to the player who takes it) can be very decisive in 'new' groups that aren't familiar with the game. If you find your games are ending too quickly because of Imperial spam, an easy fix is to have it grant only one Victory Point each time it's taken. If you like shorter games and want to be done at a reasonable hour, it's fine the way that it is.

Another note: Twilight Imperium (like many Fantasy Flight strategy games) is the sort of game that it takes a couple of runs with to 'break in' a group of new players. The first two or three games (at least) are usually a learning process, and shouldn't really be taken as representative of the game's mechanics or balance. It's sometimes informative to run through a full game turn or two, just to let new players get the hang of what all the mechanics do, and then rewind and start over once everyone knows what they're doing.

A lot of strategic decisions made in the first turn or two have very important consequences and it puts new players at a handicap if they have no idea which way is up while they're making decisions. Which strategies to pick, which technologies to get, how to vote on laws, who to trade with, how to balance logistics versus movement, how to conquer planets (and which ones are good for conquering) and move your spaceships around, how to deal with an angry military neighbor that wants to steamroll you... it can be a lot to take in. Don't be a dick, let people figure out what they're doing before you lay on the misdirection and political scheming. Nobody wants to sit around for a few hours getting their ass handed to them because they set up poorly in the first couple of turns. Being nice about it is the key to cultivating a group of repeat players.

The MANLY Game[edit]

My god, someone made a computer version.

Jobs from Puerto Rico, hex maps from Cataan & Amoeba Wars, random exploration from everybody's first house rules to improve Cataan, alien races with different advantages from Cosmic Encounter, buckets of finely-crafted plastic minis from Axis & Allies... this is like the Flaming Moe of boardgames. The only awesome game mechanic it's missing is the hidden traitor player from Shadows Over Camelot.

(stolen from another site. Please replace with something /tg/ worthy.)

TI3 is played by at least three players who belong to ten possible alien races, each with their own advantages and quirks. The 'designer notes' in the rulebook candidly and humbly acknowledge the inspiration for some of the improvements to the original game. The strategic game-play borrows the governing element from 'Puerto Rico' to involve players in an iteratively complex and yet fast-paced game experience with very little downtime. The game map, basic player progress and overall victory are dynamically determined in almost exactly the same way as they are by imaginative players of 'Settlers of Catan', while the "Command" system cleverly improves on the 'oil' logistical mechanism of 'Attack' to both manage turn-based activity and limit the size of armies, uniquely enabling weakened players to bounce back if they play their cards right.

Shipping in a massive fuckoff hueg (12” x 24”) box, this new giant-size edition of TI feature almost 350 masterfully sculpted oversize plastic miniatures - the typical TI units (Ground Forces, Cruisers, Dreadnoughts, Carriers, Fighters, PDS, and Space Docks) as well as two new units (the massive War Sun and the Destroyer). TI3 contains new oversize board tiles, more than 400 cards, every known civilization of the Twilight Imperium universe, almost every expansion rule and component ever published for TI, a gorgeous graphical overhaul, and an impressive full-color rules set.

Twilight Armada (the disc game)[edit]

Started out as a fighters expansion for TI 1st edition, later FFG bought the mechanics for a tabletop wargame that used cardboard discs instead of minis. Unit stats were printed around the edge, the illustration showed arcs of fire, and the size of the disc was the relative target profile of the ship. Discs were flipped to show different stats in a damaged state.

Rex: Final Days of an Empire (Remake of Dune)[edit]

Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) has licensed the rights to the mechanics of the boardgame version of Dune published by Avalon Hill (not the board game based on the movie, the one based on the book). Fantasy Flight was unable to get the rights to the Dune license. They re-theme the game to fit into the Twilight Imperium universe. The game now centers on players waring for control of Mecatol Rex.

but the original game is too awesome to screw up, and Twilight Imperium is also awesome, so we can expect an awesome sandwich with a side order of awesome. Unfortunately FFG made multiple changes to match to boardgame trends. This has really dulled the edge of what had been pure evil in cardboard form.

But it's still the best backstab simulator you can get.

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition[edit]

It took only 12 years, but TI now has a new edition - it includes all races (except the Lazax) from the base game and expansions, some streamlined rules, but it is mostly identical.

Board Games
Classics: Backgammon - Chess - Go - Tafl - Tic-Tac-Toe
Ameritrash: Arkham Horror - Axis & Allies - Battleship - Betrayal at House on the Hill - Car Wars
Clue/Cluedo - Cosmic Encounter - Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Dungeon!
Firefly: The Game - HeroQuest - Monopoly - Snakes and Ladders - Risk - Talisman - Trivial Pursuit
Eurogames: Agricola - Carcassonne - Settlers of Catan - Small World - Stratego - Ticket to Ride
Pure Evil: Diplomacy - Dune (aka Rex: Final Days of an Empire) - Monopoly
Others: Icehouse - Shadow Hunters - Twilight Imperium